I was all gearing up to host my Wanderlust 5 year anniversary show on Bondi Beach Radio when I got a call from AirAsia – want to come to Bangkok next week to help celebrate the fact we’ve flow half a billion passengers? I hit pause on the playlist prep, packed my passport and that was that. Show? What show?!
Arriving in Bangkok, after getting a pretty decent sleep on a Premium Flatbed (which, BTW, is the way forward when it comes to flying overnight to Asia), I was reminded of the few days I had spent in the Thai capital many years before. There was the chokey traffic and wide, in-progress highways, as well as humidity and haze, but as the cityscape flickers by you also glimpse the tops of Buddhist temples and signs with curly-edged Thai script. It has an exciting energy and I couldn’t wait to see how much I could ram into a short (two days and one night!) stay.
Shopping at Siam Square
I’d been reading about the cutting-edge fashion from local Thai designers and I was eager to see it for myself. I jumped on the Sky Train with a new travel buddy from Buzzfeed and we embarked at the mall mecca to end them all – Siam Square. Being so MASSIVE, it took a little bit to get my bearings and figure out where I would find all the unique local fashion among the major labels at every turn. But, I’m here to save you some time – head straight for Gate 10 of the Siam Centre and you’ll be able to marvel in the cool a f fashion being created by the talented Thais!It really was pretty exciting – as the materials, the cuts, the bright patterns were all super unique.
So, here’s the low down on a few of the stores that I think are worth your time.
For a store that is as much spectacle as substance (and it does have cool threads) don’t miss Fly Now iii. The mannequins are oversized animal and doll heads, the clothes are all bold patterns and colour, and the teal padding on the walls and in the circular change rooms is something to behold.
The Selected – this was one of my fave stores. They had beautiful kimonos and lots of unique clothes and objects that I wanted to purchase a lot of things. I did end up getting a velvety blue backpack – which also served a purpose as I was picking up bits and pieces along the way! It’s the first store pictured above.
For delicious herbal teas, with fascinating flavours like bael fruit and white mulberry, duck in to Harnn. They also sell gorgeous Thai soaps and some threads and soft furnishings as well.
There are actually so many more I loved up here on this floor, but you should go, explore yourself, and then be sure to let me know what ones you loved!
Oh, and we also stopped by the Hello Kitty store, mainly because Buzzfeed were doing a piece on the fun cafes in Bangkok, so I tagged along. And some of the food was almost too cute to eat! It’s totally mad how much Hello Kitty merchandise there was in the bottom floor shop. Hello Kitty thermometer anyone? But rainbow cakes and coffees with cat patterns on top…worth a little squizz, innit?! But then Hightail it out of there, the theme song on repeat will do your head in.
AirAsia Half A Billion Celebration
Was so thrilled to have been invited by AirAsia to Thailand for their Half A Billion celebration! We did a press conference, where I was able to interview CEO Benjamin Ismail from AirAsia X about the expansion through Australasia, free surfboard travel and more for my Bondi Beach Radio show. We also got to join in the festivities where they gave away free flights for LIFE to the 500 millionth customer, saw actual air hosties dance up a storm and saw Thai pop sensation Pope do his thang. It was all in good fun and I’m super grateful for the trip.
Street food is pretty much everywhere you look in Bangkok – fruits with sugar toppings, fried things on sticks, and of course noodles and laksas and all that goodness. Tucked behind our hotel, Centara Grand, there was a web of alleys with street food hawkers on either side, plastic tables and stools here and there. Love. It. We found a popular little place which ticked the golden rule book of street food eating – it was popular, cooked fresh and looked delicious as it was being flipped around the wok. We all couldn’t resist the classic – Pad Thai with prawns. Quick, cheap, no fuss and damn tasty. Win.
Flower Market – Pak Khlong Talat
Numero uno thing to do on my trip to Bangkok was visit the morning flower market. I’ll tell you about how ace it was in a minute – getting there was hilarious. We caught the Sky Train and then a taxi to the market, which is on Chat Phet Road. Trying to flag a taxi as 4 obvious out-of-towners was tricky. The first one wouldn’t take us because he said he couldn’t see properly (WHY ARE YOU DRIVING?!) the next one who picked us up had an ID that was about 30 years younger with about zero likeness to our actual driver, and despite the last few refusing to take us for less than 200 baht, the actual journey cost 65. Aaah, Bangkok…
So very worth the journey though! Certainly for the first hour or so we didn’t see any other foreigners, and the maze of alleys and warehouses and side-streets that make up the market were vibrant and rustic and bursting with flowers I’d never seen before. Many were arranged and tied for ceremonies and I wanted to know what spiritual events, however everyday, these flowers were being prepared for. We also walked into a large undercover market space with colourful crates stacked with chilies and limes and fish and all kinds of herbs that I’m sure would become fragrant Thai dishes in restaurants across town.
I’d heard that mornings in the flower market you could come across Buddhist monks arriving to pick up flowers for their services and sure enough, we came upon a smiling robed monk approaching a shop filled with orange chrysanthemums.
Wander through backstreets
There’s something that feels right about taking to the backstreets of Bangkok on a steamy day. We were headed away from the flower market toward the Chao Phraya River so we just pointed in that direction and meandered in that general direction – stopping to look at the wares of fruit carts, or peer up at the faded paint jobs on the apartments above, joined by a web of electricity wires strung across the sky. You could smell fruits and bins and wafting cooking aromas as you moved along.
Wat Arun – Temple of the Dawn
We approached the Chao Phraya River with the purpose of boarding a river boat, so found the Sapphan Taksin boat pier and paid the 3 baht to get the ferry across the river to our destination: Wat Arun, or Temple of the Dawn…
Entry to the Wat Arun was 100 baht. The temps were rising to around 36 degrees Celsius, which could have been a deterrent from climbing up steep temple steps, but Wat Arun is one of the most important religious sites in Thailand and one on my must-do list on this fleeting trip to the Thai capital.
You approach through lush green gardens and lawns with red roofed temple buildings beside you toward the main entry through to the feature Khmer-style towering structures. The building stretches up in a white wave adorned with patterned tiles, and dotted with mini Thai statuettes. The heat is intense, so after some wandering up and around the striking temple walls, it is time to retreat to search out bottled water and shade.
One of the brilliant things about Thailand is that you’re never far from a fresh coconut to cool you down and help re-hydrate you on a humid outing. After the ferry trip back across the river, and one final view of the wondrous Wat Arun, it was sadly time for me to make tracks and head back to the hotel and out of Bangkok altogether.
One last longing look at the hotel pool and it was time to head back for my flight. Don’t feel too sorry for me though – I was flying back to Sydney on an Air Bed! Did you know it only costs an extra $400 to upgrade to an air bed on an Air Asia flight? Slept. So. Well.
Especially knowing I had seen and done so much with just one night in Bangkok!
Thanks to AirAsia for allowing me to come along for the Half A Billion Passenger ride!